I wanted to study the professional doctorate course as I aim to become a professional psychotherapist. I started my university journey in 2015, completing a BSc in Psychology with Sociology followed by an MSc in Clinical and Integrative Psychotherapy. When I heard about the professional doctorate course, I was confident to study the course at the University and study units that would expand my knowledge in the field. I also wanted to pursue the course as I hope to support a range of populations therapeutically.  I started the professional doctorate in January 2020 and within 2 months of starting the course was affected like many by the pandemic and lockdown. As part of the course, we require placement hours and because of the pandemic it was only in March this year that a charity was happy to recruit me as a student counsellor. In addition to this, my thesis was primarily focused on applying a simple, cost-effective approach to young people in a school environment which could be applied by a Special Educational Needs teacher for feelings of anxiety and/or low mood. However, this also had to be cancelled and I along with my supervisors had to create a new project to focus on for my thesis, for which we only just received ethical approval. As a result, I felt the need to attend attentional events to expand my expertise and focus on a niche area which I can focus on without any impact from the pandemic.    

I attended events primarily focused on trauma and anxiety as I wanted to explore how events such as the pandemic can increase anxiety and individual vulnerability. I also attended an event delivered by a single session therapy specialist to understand how I may be able to utilise this form of therapy in such an uncontrolled and ever-changing environment. In addition, I wanted to explore how it can be understood and explored effectively with a client. The events not only helped me develop tangible tools to use within clinical practice, but they also helped me to implement the skills learnt within my current research. I was able to understand and incorporate interventions and programmes that could be applied within trauma and how they can be integrated to effectively support the client. From attending these events I have been able to apply the teachings to my current research piece around COVID-19 and OCD. These events have not only helped in terms of my taught units or my thesis, but they have also informed me in effectively applying the skills within my placement when working with clients. They have allowed me to understand how to incorporate different skills in telephone therapy where it can be difficult to show empathy and a collaborative approach.  

I come from a lower middle-class family and because of the requirements of the course, the placement and funding in particular, I had to leave my job to focus primarily on my studies to achieve my goals. Without the support of my family, supervisors, and the University I would not have been able to stay focused and attend these additional events. Without the Graduate School’s Research Support Award I would not have had the funding to attend the events. Despite having so many pushbacks I am still continuously encouraged by those around me that I can still complete the components of the course. I would recommend anyone affected by the pandemic or any other circumstance to consider the support the university offers for research students as without this support I would not be as confident as I am today in effectively using and applying the skills I have learnt from the events I attended.

Sabah was funded through the Manchester Metropolitan Graduate School’s Research Support Award to attend additional training. You can find out more about the award and upcoming deadlines by visiting the PGR Development Moodle area. 

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